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Larry  E. Hall

Hybrid & Electric Cars Blog

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Chrysler Playing Catch Up

Thursday July 18, 2013

It may be slow to the show, but Chrysler's global director of electrified propulsion and engineering recently told the Detroit Free Press that the automaker has plenty in the works beyond the company's first electric vehicle, the Fiat 500e. The EV just went on sale in California. Neither the Chrysler nor Fiat brands could be found among the several hundred thousand hybrids leaving the showroom in the first half of 2013.

Mike Duhaime left his post at GM as chief engineer for the Chevrolet Volt's power train about a year ago after more than three decades with the automaker to take the position with Chrysler. Duhaime sited a great "culture" and lots of opportunities for hybrid and electric vehicle development at Chrysler in explaining his career move. He told the Detroit Free Press that the 500e is just a first step, assuring there would be battery electric vehicles in Chrysler's future.

Alternative Fuels Vehicle Sales Look Strong for 2013

Thursday July 18, 2013

Hybrid vehicle sales month over month continue to rise, and it's more than just the soaring summer gas prices causing the strong showing. Besides consumers looking to save at the pump, the ability for hybrid and electric vehicles to continue carving out a little piece of an ever-competitive car market is likely due in part to the sheer number of hybrid and EV options now open to consumers.

Regardless of the likely multiple factors involved, 2013 is shaping up to be a strong year for alternative fuel vehicles sales. Chevy's Volt jumped to 2,700 sales in June, a mark that is nearly 1,000 units over its 2012 showing. GM is likely pleased to see that its Volt can stand up to the increased number of contenders in the plug-in hybrid arena. Ford's C-Max Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in are also making strong showings. The controversy earlier this year over official MPG numbers is apparently not hurting Ford's hybrid sales too much, as the automaker is enjoying hybrid sales up 400 percent compared to the same period last year, due in large part to its stronger line up of available hybrids.

These strong postings by Ford and GM could be hurting the Toyota Prius, which has long dominated the hybrid market. Toyota has seen Prius sales fall by about 8 percent compared to a year ago. But don't shed too many tears for Toyota. Even with its extended family of Prius models available, the standard Prius continues to be far and away the best selling hybrid.

Military Pumps Up Alternative Fuels Budget

Thursday July 18, 2013

The U.S. military will be increasing its expenditures on alternative fuels development and vehicle use, according to a recent report by Navigant Research.

Mirroring the reasons many consumers begin looking into alternative fuels vehicles, the military is less interested in saving the planet and more interested in saving costs. According to the report, the military's annual budget for alternative fuels development and alternative drive vehicles will rise to $926 million by 2020, a substantial increase from the $435 million budget figure for this category in 2013.

The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world. The report says the military is looking at every conceivable technology to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, including increasing the number of E-85 and B-20 capable vehicles as well as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, among other measures.

Industry Leaders See Strong Hybrid Market

Sunday June 30, 2013

Recent statements from Nissan North America and Bosch Automotive Service Solutions underscore rising sales for electric cars and 240-volt charging stations.

Brendan Jones, director of EV infrastructure strategy for Nissan, reported record Leaf sales in May, boasting 2,138 registrations, which represents a 319 percent increase over May 2012. He said June was also positioned to be a leading month for sales.

Kevin Mull, Bosch vice president of charging stations in the past four years. Bosch acknowledged the price tag remains fairly high, with the newly released wireless station will set customers back about $3,000 plus installation. This compares to a 240-volt corded system retailing for $800-$900.

Mazda Introduces New Hybrid, But Only in Japan

Sunday June 30, 2013

Mazda recently unveiled its completely new 2014 Mazda3 compact, which will be offered in a hatchback version. Mazda has confirmed its latest generation of Mazda3 will hit showrooms this fall.

The 2014 Mazda3 will be offered with two engine choices in the North American market, but neither offers an alternative fuel choice. Mazda3s found here will be confined to either the currently available SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine, as well as a new SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter gasoline engine. The latter is presently found in the CX-5 and 2014 Mazda6.

But on the global level, Mazda expands its power train line-up to meet what it has identified as "local market demands." This includes not only the SKYACTIV-G 1.5- to 2.5-liter-sized gasoline engines, but also a SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine and a hybrid electric vehicle, the latter appearing in Japan only.

Despite Lower Sales, Toyota Predicts Strong Year for Hybrids

Friday May 31, 2013

Smarting from a January-April sales total that fell a significant 12 percent below last year's volume and is clearly off the mark for meeting a year-end sales goals, Toyota Motor Corp. insists it will see a noticeable jump in its U.S. vehicle deliveries in May from a year earlier, once final sales figures for the month are in.

The automaker predicts sales of its popular Prius hybrid family--the original Prius, as well as the Prius c, Prius v and Prius plug-in--will surpass its May 2012 sales of 21,477.

Toyota's rough start to 2013 was not shared by its competitors as the automaker was the only one of the six largest automakers by U.S. sales to report a drop in April. The company is blaming lower fuel prices for the decline in Prius sales.

Ford Chalks Up Impressive Hybrid Sales for Start of 2013

Friday May 31, 2013

While it hasn't quite caught up with market leader Toyota, Ford is noticeably closing the gab in on the leading automaker for hybrid sales.

In the first five months of 2013, Ford has already flown past its full-year hybrid sales record set in 2010, the automaker announced recently. The company's best hybrid sales year to date had been 2010, when the automaker chalked up sales of 35,496 hybrids. But Ford recently announced that by the end of May, it is projected to sell 37,000 hybrid vehicles.

Lower Leases May Make Electric Cars More Attractive

Friday May 31, 2013

Sluggish sales of electric vehicles have auto companies concerned enough to drop the lease prices, hoping to give a jump to sagging sales. Honda announced recently that it is slashing the monthly lease price for its Fit EV by a full third, a move that mirrors similar action by other automakers.

Honda is also still making good on its offer of including a free home charging station and unlimited mileage for its leases. Relatively stable prices at the pump could be partly to blame, along with improved gas mileage offered by the latest model conventional vehicles.

New Jersey Plans Fee for EV Owners

Tuesday April 30, 2013

It's been talked about for a while now: governments are missing out on taxes that electric vehicles owners are no longer paying at the pump. It's no surprise, then, that a New Jersey lawmaker decided to do his part to put an end to what he sees as an inequity by drafting legislation to tax EV owners to cover their share of the gasoline tax.

Ignoring the fact that electric vehicles have other advantages -- just little things, like reducing pollution and helping to slowly ease reliance on fossil fuels -- state senator James Whelan decided enough was enough, and drafted language that, if passed, will tax electric cars by the mile for road maintenance. His staff is currently looking at adding additional alternatively fueled vehicles to the bill, including natural gas vehicles.

Problem is, the language he's drafted would end up costing electric car owners more than if they paid the state's current 14.5 cents per gallon. You see, someone decided to do the math. Namely, Steve Carrallas, state director of the National Motorists Association New Jersey chapter. Using the same amount of miles driven, Carrallas compared the gas tax owed by the owner of a conventional vehicle getting 25 mpg to the proposed tax of an electric vehicle owner traveling the same number of miles. He found the conventional car owner would fork over about $50 in a year's time while the EV owner would be paying over four times that much or about $209.

While it appears electric vehicle owners are willing to do their share to keep the roadways in good condition, proposing language such as that found in New Jersey senate bill 2531 without doing the homework first leaves a bad taste in the mouths of EV owners and brings into question the intentions, and ramifications, of this kind of legislation.

Selling Electricity Back to Grid Comes to Light

Tuesday April 30, 2013

It's been talked about for a while now, but a University of Delaware project hit a milestone recently that has brought the dual advantage of electric vehicles to the forefront.

Long touted purely for their "green appeal," the other incentive for buying an EV -- to sell power from the vehicle battery back to the grid -- is finally seeing light of day.

It's the revelation hitting the general population that could spur interest in EV purchase by those who didn't really give a hoot about the environmental arguments.

Potential owners of electric vehicles are finally opening their eyes to the fact that they could buy lower-cost electricity overnight, or even operate their own wind turbines or solar panels, storing excess energy in their cars. By day, owners could sell excess power back onto the grid from their parked cars, when energy prices are at peak.

The University of Delaware is bringing this opportunity to light by working with NRG Energy in starting in late 2011 in an attempt to commercialize the concept. Recently, the project hit a landmark and finally began selling power from parked electric cars into an energy market being developed by wholesale electricity dealer PJM.

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